Earlier this year, Mumbai University decided to shift from the manual, pen-and-paper process of checking answer scripts of the examinations it conducts every year to an online system. What followed is a lesson – how not to implement reforms. Due to a series of problems brought on by poor planning, under-resourced colleges and technical glitches, the exam results have been delayed by about two months. In past years, the results have been declared in late May or by early June. But now, at the end of July, the university is still scrambling to complete the evaluation process.
In lieu of this on July 04, Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao in his capacity as Chancellor of all universities in the state has stepped in to save the future of the enrolled children. He instructed the Vice Chancellor to make sure that all results have been declared by July end. The university has already seen four “non-instructional days” – July 23 to July 27 – to free up time for teachers to correct papers. This has been extended till July 31 for the departments of law, management and commerce. Examiners from other universities in Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad are helping too.
Now the question that pops up is that till the evening of July 27, four lakh scripts remained unchecked. Will they be corrected in just four days’ time which means one lakh copies per day? Of these, 3.15 lakh are from the commerce stream alone. On this, the registrar of the Mumbai University said “If we can have a full working day on Sunday, we may be able to finish.”
The Answer Scripts are in Lakhs
Mumbai University has over 750 affiliated colleges, many in semi-urban areas, and instructs over 5 lakh students. Hence, a reformation in a fortnight is next to impossible!!
Although at the undergraduate level, only final-year exams are conducted and evaluated centrally, the exams held in March-April generated about 18 lakh undergraduate and postgraduate answer scripts. The commerce stream alone had 8.3 lakh papers, while law had 85,000, which have now been whittled down to about 34,000. Management had about 1 lakh scripts, down to 8,500 now.
Till last year when exam papers were checked as soon as the examinations ended, results were typically declared within 45 days of the examinations, in late May or early June.
Hiccups in going ONLINE
The university needed the help of an external agency to manage the technical aspects of online correction. However, even by March 4 – when exams began, and two months after the university announced that it was shifting to the online system – it did not have one. By April 27, the university managed to get an agency on board.
The first step, scanning of answer scripts, began around May 15. Assessment commenced in the first week of June, well over two months late. On the other hand teachers hold the view that they were kept out of this decision making process. Faltering internet connectivity slowed downloads of answer scripts by assessors. It even caused some of them to lose the progress made on a paper because the connection snapped in the middle, forcing them to start from scratch.
Earlier, teachers corrected 30 answer-scripts in a day. In the early days of online correction, they could manage only eight or nine. As of now only 20 scripts can be corrected in day by a teacher.
Outside Help taken
The online system exposed other gaps too, such as:
- In programmes like commerce and management in aided colleges, the government funds up to two sections of 120 seats each. But since 2000, the university has allowed college managements to run additional sections that they would finance themselves by raising funds through fees. To keep costs low, most of the teaching positions for these extra seats were staffed with ad hoc and temporary staff.
- If the university regulations are taken into consideration, only government-approved permanent teachers are permitted to check papers. This rule has become the thing of the past, in the manual system ad hoc teachers were enlisted unofficially to assess papers.
- Twenty-five teachers from Nagpur University are already on the job. Another 50 from Aurangabad University will check law papers because many of Mumbai University’s law teachers are “practicing advocates” and not free before evening.
And the loser – Student
Since past two months, the university’s students protested against the delay in assessment, met State Governor and made several trips to the university offices. The Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union submitted representations on July 4 and July 17. The former vice-chancellor called for the resignation of the present one, Sanjay Deshmukh, and even political parties like Shiv Sena waded in.
To control the damage due to the delay in completing evaluation, Mumbai University pushed back its own admission deadlines. Some private universities followed.
All this is ultimately running the carrier of the students thus making them see the dark clouds in future!!